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An Economic Perspective on Population Growth
T. Paul Schultz
A disquieting feature of the postwar period is the increasing rate of population growth in many low income countries. To date, the factors behind this development are not fully understood, nor can its consequences be confidently inferred from existing evidence. Are the acute social strains associated with the contemporary acceleration in population growth a transitory consequence of a once-and-for-all adjustment to the postwar change in the rate of population growth, or are they a permanent consequence of a continuing rapid rate of population growth? What pressures within the family may work to dampen rapid population growth? How much time is needed for these behavioral mechanisms to take hold, and how effective and humane will they be? Clearly the pace of population growth is, on the surface, alarming, yet uncertainty remains as to what policy priorities should be adopted to cope with this complex problem. Designing and implementing sound social policy requires, principally, a better understanding of the link between individual human behavior and the societal trends we view with concern.
Many impressions of the "population explosion" and its consequences are formed from the perspective of macro or aggregate analyses. However, perspective both sharpens certain features and conceals others. The object of this paper is to approach rapid population growth from the perspective of micro-analysis-thai is, from the standpoint of the family, its welfare and behavior. There is, as yet, a dearth of empirical data and analysis that is truly micro in its approach to this issue. Neither is there a firm empirical base for the more familiar macro-analyses of the consequences of population growth (1). The micro-analytic approach of this paper, therefore, relies heavily on a structure of hypotheses, or a logical model, for which the growing body of evidence is still regrettably fragmentary.1969. p. 3.